Next Step Shines a Light on Domestic Violence Downeast

Congressman Bruce Poliquin (R-ME CD2) stood near the tree draped in purple lights and said that we should have “zero tolerance” for all kinds of domestic abuse, including bullying and intimidation. “[My mother] was a nurse in central Maine...and she could not have had the great career she had in nursing if there was any kind of bullying or violence or intimidation by anybody who had any kind of authority over her.” (Photo by Sarah Craighead Dedmon)

By Sarah Craighead 

Dedmon

 

A march organized by the Next Step Domestic Violence Project left Station 1898 in Machias and received cheers and supportive honks as the marchers made their way up College Hill to the university lawn. There, Next Step Prevention and Education Advocate Cheyenne Robinson-Bauman lit a tree wrapped in purple lights in recognition of the 1,000 people assisted each year by the Next Step’s shelters in Washington and Hancock County. 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this year Next Step celebrates 25 years of service in our area. In 2017 Next Step began the Shine-a-Light project to raise awareness about domestic abuse and honor abuse survivors. The purple lights shine to show survivors of domestic violence that they are not alone and that they live in a community that is working to break the isolation of abuse. 

Pratt Chevrolet Buick GMC in Calais is the 2018 Shine-a-Light sponsor.

Congressman Bruce Poliquin (R-ME CD2) attended the march held Monday, Oct. 1, and said he believes that society should have “zero tolerance” for domestic abuse.

“There is absolutely no place for domestic violence in this country, and in this state, certainly,” said Poliquin. “That, for me, also includes bullying. It includes intimidation. It includes sexual harassment.”

“Once you have awareness of these issues, then you can address them,” said Poliquin. “Our job is to make this world a better place for these kids. It takes place at all levels, [as with] what you’re doing here in this wonderful organization here, on the ground.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,  domestic violence accounted for 50 percent of all assault reports in Maine in 2013, with 5,487 incidents reported to law enforcement. Of those, 17 percent were prosecuted.

But those are just the calls that were made. The actual abuse numbers are likely much, much higher because a wide variety of experts cite isolation as one of the key tools of an abuser. After inserting wedges between their partner and the partner’s support network, it becomes very difficult for abused partners to speak up for themselves. In 2013, 12 of Maine’s 24 murders were also cases of domestic violence.

Next Step Washington County Program Manager Kelly Brown said the act of holding the march sends a multi-faceted message to the community. “All those people saw us, whether they’re perpetrators, or survivors, or whether they’re being victimized now, they know that they're in a community that cares,” she said. “We’re a small organization covering two huge counties in very rural areas. We’re small, but we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

In an earlier conversation with Rep. Poliquin, Brown said that one factor in helping abuse victims in Washington County is the large geography and comparatively small amount of law enforcement officers.

“The other thing...that’s unique to Washington County is it typically takes law enforcement, unless they happen to be in the area….45 minutes to two hours [to respond to a call],” said Brown. Washington County measures over 3,200 square miles, more than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. As a result, said Brown, some abuse victims are calling healthcare facilities seeking help to flee instead of calling law enforcement.

In closing, Robinson-Bauman read a list of 25 steps anyone can take to help put an end to domestic abuse, including making sure their workplace has information about Next Step services and becoming a Next Step volunteer (see inset box). 

“We hope that every person that uses our services or may use them in the future knows that we care about their safety and that we are working toward peace in all homes,” said Robinson-Bauman.

 

For more information about Next Step’s services, visit www.nextstepdvproject.org or call 1-800-315-5579.